Some copywriters get all the breaks. Their fundraising packages raise tons of money, people respect and appreciate their work, and new opportunities just seem to pop up for them again and again.
Others, for some reason or other, couldn't catch a break with a fishing net. They struggle, and swear, and pull out their hair — and just crank out one average package after another, each with the same lackluster results.
Some people are just lucky, right?
Wrong. Luck is not fate. Believe it or not, it's largely an attitude. One that can be cultivated. And for writers, doing so is surprisingly simple.
Ten years ago, psychologist Richard Wiseman did a study on lucky vs. unlucky people with fascinating results. (This article about his tests is quite short and well worth your time.) He discovered, for example, that, "Unlucky people often fail to follow their intuition when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches," and that, "Unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine … In contrast, many lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives."
Here are three simple steps you can take to start getting luckier with your writing:
1. Write. Woody Allen's oft-quoted remark that, "Eighty percent of success is showing up," is also oft-misunderstood. He didn't mean just being geographically present, though that's what a lot of people think. What he said, in context, was, "My observation was that once a person actually completed a play or a novel, he was well on his way to getting it produced or published, as opposed to a vast majority of people who tell me their ambition is to write, but who strike out on the very first level and indeed never write the play or book. In the midst of the conversation, as I'm now trying to recall, I did say that 80 percent of success is showing up."
In other words, to get lucky you have to do the work and then stay open for the opportunity to put it to its best advantage.
2. Write intensely. Tons of studies have shown that your mind is as much as 20 times more productive when it's at rest or in meditation than when it's concentrating on solving a problem. You'll write more imaginatively, and more productively, if you follow this simple formula:
Set a timer. Write with all your might and all the concentration you can muster for 15 minutes. Then stop. Leave your desk, and take a mental and physical break for five minutes. Then back to work for another 15, and repeat all day long. Seriously, try it. I bet you'll be impressed with the results.
3. Write widely. You've probably noticed that when you write your mind has a tendency to wander — in fact, it seems to want to think about everything except what you're working on. So let it. At least up to a point. Try opening several different projects at once so you can jump to and fro from window to window. Open two or three packages, open your memoirs or journal, and open the letter you've been meaning to write to your mother. As you work on one thing, you'll suddenly get an idea or phrase for something else. So open that one, and work until what you wanted to say in that third piece pops into your head. Deadlines can make this a bit of a challenge sometimes, but hey, you're a professional. You can deal with it.
Somebody said, (the author is in dispute), "The harder I work, the luckier I get." I've always found that statement incredibly irritating, hackneyed and smug. And infuriatingly true. If you're a writer that struggles, the solution for nearly every writing problem is simply to keep writing. So get busy, and get lucky.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.